ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Astroturfing Artificially Shaping Opinion

Updated on August 24, 2017

Astroturfing Creating or Changing Public Opinion

Astroturfers are people paid to write posts for Internet forums as though they were ordinary members of the public. The posts support the aims and opinions of the organization or person financing the campaign. They seek to groom public opinion on an issue. Astroturfing is believed to have started when the Tobacco industry sought to prevent legislation restricting sales of tobacco to teenagers they organized a letter campaign to politicians and newspapers from supposedly outraged citizens who believed it was a parents responsibility.

The term Astroturfing comes from the claims by Astroturfing companies that their artificial grass "looked like the real thing".

The Internet has made Astroturfing even easier to organize with Astroturfers creating up to 70 online identities . Now are rumors that you can even buy computer programs to completely automate the process.

Astroturfing is not confined to politics, product review websites are plagued by phony reviewers who are either praising products to the skies or alternatively negatively reviewing rival products. Be warned!!

Read below how to recognize Astroturfing and whether it is a threat to democracy.

smoking in children's movies: astroturfing
smoking in children's movies: astroturfing

My first Experience of Astroturfing

How Astroturfing is organized

I clicked on a link "Disney to Ban Smoking in new Films" on a news website I read the rather neutral announcement and then read the comments section below the article. To my surprise this was full of comments from people who were horrified at thought there would no longer be smoking scenes in children's movies, apparently this was political correctness gone mad and it was the job of parents to decide to guide their children. What surprised me more was there were whole threads of people agreeing that this was a bad thing.

At the time I just thought it odd, later on I heard about Astroturfing and the penny dropped.

Later I came across the "Confession" of an Astroturfer claiming that he had over 50 online identities which he could use to make himself represent a whole online community.

Had you heard of Astroturfing before Poll

Had you heard of Astroturfing before?

See results

Astroturfing Duel Debate Module

The left and right both accuse each other of Astroturfing, to launch or seed apparently spontaneous grassroots campaigns. I have seen it used to attack global warming but I've also I have seen real forum posters exposing it. I think there's a danger that Astroturfing could backfire for the industries that finance it.

Do businesses have the right to fight negative opinions by any means?

Astroturfing Poll

Had you noticed Astroturfing in Forums before?

See results

How to spot Astroturfing Posts

IDENTICAL POSTS If you find a post you suspect, copy the text into Google and see how many times it has appeared on the Internet.

AGREEING POSTS: Several posts seem to very similar indeed as though the Posters knew each other.

DISINTERESTED: Astroturfers aren't necessarily well paid so their post may not actually be very relevant to the discussion.

JUST HAS an ODD Feel or wooden language

AVOIDING THE SUBJECT: Ignoring whether or not say smoking is bad and just concentrating on libertarian issues.

DEFENSIVE: I think sometimes Astroturfers are a bit ashamed

On IMDB when a movie has been really panned by the critics then a series of planted comments from the studios appear these are easily recognized by the IMDB community, firstly the "plant" has never commented on any previous move, secondly it's usually defensive, why do people take movies so seriously.

Phoney Product Reviews on the Internet

I am not proud to write this but I recently bought a product based on its excellent reviews.Afterwards I got an itchy feeling and went back and reviewed the reviewers I noticed too late that they almost always gave 5 star reviews and that many of them had reviewed the same products as each other. After a while I noticed a similar sort of clever but sloppy style of comment. I even wondered if it might be the same person with multiple identities doing all the reviews.

These reviews have since been removed with real reviewers complaining about the "fake reviews" so once again was this a tactical error by the company?

Astroturfing Facts, Incidences of Astroturfing

If you are thinking of setting up an Astroturfing Campaign be aware of the risks if you are found.

  • Astroturfing became common among hackers after it came to light in early 1998 that Microsoft had attempted to use such tactics to discourage the Department of Justice's antitrust action against them. This backfired disastrously however by angering a number of state attorneys-general enough to induce them to go public with plans to join the Federal suit. It also embarrassed genuine defenders of Microsoft opening them up to the accusation “You are just astroturfing!”

Repair your Company's Online Reputation

Since I started this lens I have received two unsolicited emails from different companies promising to repair my business's online reputation.

They say they can drown out any existing negative reviews by adding hundreds of positive reviews.

It is possible of course that they would also be prepared to use the same tactics to harm the reputation of my rivals (Black Ops).

Where will it stop?

FUD Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt
FUD Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

FUD Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Use FUD to damage the reputation of rivals.

FUD is a tactic used by usually large corporates to damage the reputation of smaller upstart companies with exciting new products. Doubt may be cast on the legality, reliability, damage it can cause etc. When done well it can seriously hurt the sales and cash flow of the smaller company which may then go under. Microsoft are allegedly the champions of FUD and can use their wide network of friendly blogs, magazines to propagate these rumors.

I only seek to inform. In auctions shills (i.e people working for the auction house or seller) are illegally used to both get an auction going or drive up the price. Occasionally they end up "accidentally" winning the lot although this is embarrassing it just means they have put the item back into the next auction. eBay ban sellers that use a second account to bid on their own auctions but it can take a while before they realize that illegal bidding is going on.

Astroturfing Feedback

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)